Expect cool air, low clouds, and snowflakes down to 11,000-12,000 feet over the northern divide mountains on Friday night into Saturday morning.
For a weather forecaster in Colorado, summer is a bit mundane. Yes, there are changes in the weather pattern from day-to-day and week-to-week, but in general we’re looking at clear mornings with a chance for afternoon storms. Every day.
After being in this mundane weather pattern for two to three months, it’s nice to see all forecast models showing a change in this daily routine, even if the change will only stick around for about 24 hours.
This change will come in the form of a cold front, which will sweep through northern and eastern Colorado on Friday evening and Friday night.
As the cold front approaches and passes, expect rain showers during Friday afternoon, evening, and perhaps overnight, with the best chance of showers near the northern divide (north of I-70) and out over the plains near and east of Denver.
As these rain showers fall, cold air will be filtering into northern Colorado from the north, and the American GFS weather model shows that the freezing level will drop below 14,000 feet on Friday night.
Source: Weather Underground
Let’s take a closer look at the forecasted temperatures on Friday night. The American GFS weather model is predicting readings to drop to 5C at 10,000 feet on Friday night. The European weather model is even colder, dropping temperatures to about 3C at 10,000 feet. This translates to a freezing level around 12,000 feet, and sometimes snow flakes can fall about 1,000 feet below the freezing level.
If you’re planning to hike on Saturday morning near or east of the northern continental divide, be prepared to see some snow on the ground above 11,000 feet. I do not think we’ll see a steady snowfall on Friday night, but any showers and storms that do move through in the evening could produce a burst of rain at lower elevations and snow above about 11,000 feet.
I love front-range cold fronts not only because they bring us a chance of snow, but also because they bring low clouds, which you can hike above for an amazing view. On Saturday morning, the American GFS model is forecasting high humidity readings along and east of the divide at around 10,000 feet, which means that at sunrise on Saturday, there will likely be a deck of clouds reaching up to 10,000-11,000 feet with clear skies above.
If you get a very early start on Saturday morning and hike along the higher peaks of the front range, you may be treated to a gorgeous sunrise over these low clouds. It’s a special scene that I try to chase when possible. If you do chase the “above the clouds” view, remember to dress warm as temperatures above 11,000 will be near or below freezing.
Looking ahead, Sunday will be a bit warmer than Saturday, and then temperatures should continue to increase, back toward normal levels for August, through mid next week.
I’ll write another update about the cold front on Friday…
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